After Nico Rosberg
won last year's F1 Chinese Grand Prix
in Shanghai, it seemed to herald a bright new dawn for Mercedes in the sport. While the rest of the year didn't quite pan out that way, the team is hoping that a return to the scene of their recent triumph will reinvigorate them and maybe even lead to a repeat success.
"We've had a pretty good day here in Shanghai," said team principal Ross Brawn after Friday's free practice sessions. "There were a number of items that we wanted to evaluate and the programme has gone well.
"The car seems to have a good balance, the feedback from the drivers was positive, and I'm pleased with the race preparation that we have been able to complete," he continued. "We can see where the challenges are for this weekend and tyre life is certainly going to require some attention."
"The tyres are going to be challenging this weekend, particularly the option compound," agreed the team's newest driver Lewis Hamilton. "The car feels reasonable although I'm still finding myself a little uncomfortable so we made a change for the afternoon session which was a really positive step. I'm hoping that we can continue to improve as I spend more time in the car."
Rosberg and Hamilton secured an impressive Mercedes 1-2 in the morning session to claim an early psychological victory over the rest of the field, but they slipped behind the likes of the Ferrari
drivers and Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen
in the afternoon session despite improving their times.
"Our pace looked good and although I had some traffic on my quick lap, there was enough to give me a good feeling. We'll find out in qualifying where we really are," said Hamilton.
"This was a good and productive day without any problems for us,": contributed a happy and relaxed Toto Wolff, director of motorsports for the team's parent company. "We tested quite a few things during the first session in the morning with positive results.
"As usual we ran both prime and option tyres in the afternoon and did our normal long runs," he explained. "Keeping the option tyre from dropping off early is quite a big challenge. It's early days and we are sure that there is more performance that we can extract from our technical package at this circuit."
"Yes, it was a very productive day," agreed Rosberg. "We've been able to run our program and the car feels really good. I think the day proved that we should be pretty competitive here."
As competitive as last year, when he won the race?